CHARACTERS: House, Wilson, Cuddy
SUMMARY: A study of the psychology behind the HouseWilsonCuddy bond. Introspection, angst, hurtcomfort. Wilson and Cuddy realize that there's a difference between dependence and addiction when House's worsening chronic pain causes a collapse in front of his team.
CHAPTER FOUR: Cuddy Lies
It takes Cuddy a while to gather everything and to make some phone calls. When she stops by Respiratory, she’s relieved to find the department deserted. She slings the portable oxygen unit over her shoulder and on her way out grabs a disposable ambu bag from the cart. Morphine depresses the respiratory rate; just a precaution, she tells herself.
She makes one more stop, the ER. She steps into the supply room and grabs a small flat package which she slips into her pocket. Then she heads for the elevator, lugging the large totebag that hides the contents of a small hospital room.
When she arrives at the office door, she's pleased to see that the recliner and linens she ordered from Maternity have already been delivered, and that a kitchen worker is coming towards her wheeling a cart containing an ice bucket and a large thermal coffee carafe.
When the woman reaches the door, Cuddy says briskly, "I'll take it from here, Clara, thanks. His mood is more wicked than usual, and he's already angry with me. A couple of all-nighters catching up on charts wasn't in his plans for this weekend." The woman smiles gratefully at her and leaves.
Cuddy unlocks the door and motions to Wilson. He joins her at the door, spies the recliner and looks at her questioningly. "Don't worry," she says. "The entire hospital's had their suspicions confirmed--I really am the Evil Witch, locking poor Dr. House in his office until he gets every single one of his charts caught up.” She draws herself up to her full officious-intimidating-administrator height, crosses her arms, and says sternly, “About three years' worth, I believe."
The grin on Wilson's face makes her happy, and she smiles back at him. But his smile fades quickly. "The kids, Cuddy. How the hell are we gonna keep his team out of here this weekend? Those three are the last people he'd want to see him like this."
Cuddy looks uncomfortably at Wilson, but maintains eye contact as she says, "They have no case right now, so unless something comes up, they’re off this weekend. And I told them the biggest, most effective lie I could come up with. As far as they know, House was simply indulging in some classic drug-seeking behavior this afternoon, and the charting's his penance." There was more, Wilson could tell.
"Cuddy, please. Those are three of the brightest medical minds in the country. Surely they didn't buy that?" Cuddy shifts nervously before speaking again. "Foreman was the quickest to buy it when I mentioned that House has been using morphine at least once a week, every weekend--"
"But that's not true!" Wilson interrupts angrily. Cuddy looks at him miserably. "I told you the lie was big," she almost whispers. "And Foreman got that insufferably smug look on his face and walked off like the cat who'd swallowed the canary. Chase and Cameron weren't as quick to believe me, until I mentioned that the reason you'd moved in with him was to keep him from killing himself with the stuff..."
She looks down, ready for Wilson to yell. But--just as quickly as she'd earlier deduced Wilson's reasons for administering the morphine--Wilson concludes that her reasons for the lie weren't that much different. They were both protecting House--from himself, from his pain, and from the world. So he says simply, "Thanks, Lisa."
Working together, they roll the recliner and kitchen cart into the office. House is, for the moment at least, feeling no pain, and after Cuddy gets the recliner made up and Wilson changes him into the soft, worn scrubs, it takes both of them to get him from the floor into bed. Wilson says idly, “He hates scrubs, ya know. Says they make him look like a doctor.” House sleeps through the procedure, but as they're settling him he drowsily lifts both hands to his face in loose fists and rubs his eyes.
Like a worn-out child, Cuddy thinks, and that reminds her of the small package she's got in her pocket. She sees that House's lips are already cracked, checks the turgor of his skin and doesn’t like it. "We need to get the fluids running," she says to Wilson.
"Just a while longer," he says, but the doctor in him knows they can't wait much more. Cuddy smiles and hands him the package. He takes it and studies it for a moment. "Cuddy, you're brilliant!" he says as he tears open the EMLA pack and places the small, skin-numbing patch designed for children over the vein he's already chosen for the IV.
"Don't know why," she says dryly, "but every time I think of House my pediatrics training kicks right in." They share another smile and then a companionable silence as they wait for the patch to take effect. When Wilson slides the cannula in, attaches a heplock, and starts the drip, House doesn't even stir.
A/N: A heparin lock (“heplock”) is a small plastic plug with a rubber tip, designed for the easy insertion and removal of needles from the IV site.
CHAPTER FIVE: Wilson Cracks
Wilson scrubs a hand across his eyes and pours a third cup of coffee. The last four hours have been rough. House has had two more episodes of breakthrough pain. The first had occurred as Wilson was helping him the short distance to the bathroom. As the spasm began to build, Wilson was just able to maneuver him back to the recliner before House became swept up in the clenching pain.
As Wilson slowly pushed 10mg of morphine through the line, he’d kept up the usual soothing conversational patter, told House not to worry about it; they’d try the short trip again after the med had taken hold. Wilson would have bet a month’s salary that nothing short of paralysis would induce House to agree to use a urinal, and a year’s salary that House would never come up with the idea on his own—but he would have lost that bet.
As the spasm settled into quietude, House’s eyes had lit on the urinal which was part of the admit kit Cuddy had procured. He’d drawled to Wilson, “How about we pretend that I’m a patient? You be a nice nurse and bring me that nifty little pee thingy over there.”
Wilson had hidden his shock and had done as requested. Excellent idea, really, he reflects now. The scant amount of dark piss House had produced in the urinal, less than 100cc, was helpful—it had told Wilson that the rate on the IV fluids needed to be doubled. And that is another worrisome thing; House has neither fought the urinal nor questioned the need for the IV. He hasn’t even complained about the scrubs. He seems, Wilson reflects, resigned. And that, he thinks drolly, is not our House.
The second ungodly spasm shouldn’t have happened at all. House had managed to keep down some ice chips, so Wilson had reluctantly agreed to allow some juice. He smiles at the memory—he’d allowed House to badger him into it just because he’d been so relieved that House was conscious, thirsty, pain free—and badgering him again! Wilson had forgotten the pre-infarction House, and had been surprised to become reacquainted with that charming, persuasive man again. They’d both been transported back to that more innocent time, the time before Pain had become the detested third member of their long and storied history.
It causes him a hard twinge of loss as he thinks about it now, and he shakes away some dusty memories. That man is dead, Wilson thinks, and it’s best for us all to leave him buried. But oh, those few minutes when House had been finagling the juice—his face had been young again; the pain-etched lines were gone, the blue eyes were clear and relaxed, his smile had been open and unguarded; even the timbre of his voice had been missing its usual undercurrent of sardonic anger.
They’d both reveled in those few good minutes—until Wilson had forgotten to be a physician instead of a naughty, conspiratorial best friend. He’d allowed House to wheedle a few ounces of fruit juice, and they’d both paid for it. It had looked like the juice was going to stay down, and House had closed his eyes to drift into the arms of Morpheus again. Wilson had just started to relax a bit himself when House, sleeping soundly, had begun to retch.
Wilson had grabbed the emesis basin and made it to him just in time to turn him to his side and catch all four ounces of juice in the basin. House had tried to make a joke of it, something about the effects of heavy drinking after abstaining for so long, but it fell pitifully flat when his stomach heaved in mid-sentence.
Wilson had held his head as he dry-heaved, and handed him a cool, moist cloth when it was over. The ordeal had worn House out, yes, but Wilson had thought that they were in the clear, and so he’d decided against even suggesting another dose of the hated Compazine. He’d found himself wondering if the anticipated nausea was ever a deterrent to House when he was contemplating an illicit dose of morphine. If it was, he’d decided, he was grateful.
Just didn’t have the heart to upset him again, you coward, he chides himself now. So look where your kindness got him. The episode of dry heaves had been followed in quick succession by two more, and just as Wilson had finally decided that Compazine was unavoidable, all those minutes of muscles violently contracting caught up with House as his leg jerked cruelly with a life of its own, and House had cried out to him through the retching and gasping and uncontrollable screams.
“Get the hell out of here, Wilson!” he’d shouted. “Just leave me alone! Ya know what’s pitiful, you think you’re helping me.” Wilson, stunned, had stared at him as House had continued, his voice growing quiet, vicious, intense, “Yeah, I know, you’re the saintly Dr. Compassion, and your patients eat that up. Well, I’m sure as hell not your patient, and half the time I’m not even your friend. But no matter what I do, how badly I treat you, you’re always my friend, and that’s just… sad. So do yourself a favor; you and your compassion”—he hissed the word like a curse—“go find someone who actually wants you around.”
Throughout, Wilson had stood stock still, his eyes never wavering from House’s, as House had continued to throw the bitter barbs. Wilson had never flinched. And then House had worn down, and was gasping, and his fevered eyes were still locked with Wilson’s. Wilson had matched his quiet intensity, if not his anger, when he’d responded. “You’re not my friend? Fine, I’ll live with it. But I currently have a medical obligation to you which I intend to fulfill. So, while I know how dangerous it is to have to contradict the magnificent Dr. House, that does, indeed, make you my patient.”
He’d finally looked away and turned to get the anti-emetic. He could feel House’s eyes boring into his back, could hear the agitated, breathless respirations. “And one more thing, House,” he’d said quietly, flatly. “It didn’t work. I’m still here. Live with it.” He’d heard House’s half-sob, half-laugh, and spent rather more time than was strictly necessary preparing the already-prepared medication.
Despite the extra time that Wilson had given them both, tears had been leaking from House’s tightly closed eyes as Wilson injected the dose into the IV line, but Wilson reflects now that that had been a good thing, because they had prevented his friend from seeing—and despising—Wilson’s own tears.
As he finishes pushing the med, he realizes that House’s respirations have remained uneven, disrhythmic, since their confrontation. And they’re too shallow. Wilson brings the portable O2 canister to the bedside. “House,” he says, all Dr. James Wilson, “we need for you to wear this now. Your respiratory status is compromised.” There is no smile on his face, no kindness in his voice. He’s just the doctor.
He simply stands at the bedside as House refuses and rails at him, further unsettling his breathing pattern. When House’s angry voice finally trails off, Wilson matter-of-factly places the cannula in his patient’s nose, adjusts the flow on the tank, and turns away from the bed. His back to House, he allows a touch of warmth to enter his voice, “It’s just for a little while.” Finally, he hears the erratic breathing smooth out into the sound of sleep.
House is back inside his warm, fuzzy cocoon, and Wilson is alone with his thoughts. It is not, he reflects, a comfortable place to be. What the bloody hell did I think I was trying to do for him? If I’d believed him when he tried to tell me that the pain was getting worse…. No, I didn’t stop and really listen to him; I just glibly diagnosed him with a conversion disorder. ‘Course, for that brilliant deduction I wound up with a bruised shin. The dark memory of House’s face after he’d struck Wilson’s leg with his cane causes Wilson to frown. There had been none of House’s usual sardonic humor in that face, nor even anger—he’d just looked deeply frustrated.
Yeah, you idiot. Of course he looked frustrated. It’d gotten so bad he was actually admitting it to you. Has he ever done that before? House was finally starting to open up to you, just like you’d been begging him to, and you just shut him right back down. Good going. He remembers the MRI; he’d sensed how frightened House was during the procedure—there was so much riding on it. The look in House’s eyes had been too clear for even House to mask; he was frightened, and feeling pitifully vulnerable. So Wilson had leaned into the microphone and played God. And House had laughed in a way that Wilson had never seen, not before or since. Made ya feel good to play God for him, so you thought your job was done in the compassion department that time. And when you got those films back, it was just perfectly all right to tell him casually, walking down a crowded hall, ‘gee, sorry buddy, you’re outta luck—not only are your nerves not regenerating, but your best friend thinks you’re a nutcase too.’
He winces at the memory of his unintended cruelty, and as he watches House sleep it becomes achingly clear; they’ve all been blind, they’ve all let House down—but no one more so than Wilson himself. That’s why he hadn't hesitated to give House the morphine, Wilson knows now—House needed it. He needed it medically at this point, to disrupt the awful, vicious signals his brain and his nerve endings were merrily tossing back and forth. And no one had seen it. Except House, of course. And he’s been trying to tell me for a long time. He only had to collapse in front of his entire team to get me to listen.Chapter Six: Distance
And the previous chapters:
PRELUDE: House at Home
Chapter One: Can't Sell What You Don't Have
Chapter Two: House Is Down
Chapter Three: House In Hell